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More travelers visited Florida in the first quarter of this year than during any other three-month period in the state's history.

A study by Visit Florida showed that from January through March, 26.7 million visitors entered the state, a half-a-million more than the previous record set last year. The uptick in tourism, and the impact on the state's economy, was lauded in Tallahassee on Monday by Visit Florida and the non-profit TaxWatch.

The numbers represent an increase of 38,000 tourism related jobs and 37,000 outside of the industry related to the 2013 bump. The study also shows that travel related jobs in the state during the first three months are up 3.5 percent compared to the same time in 2013.

The Florida Legislature approved a budget with $74 million in funding for marketing and promotion by Visit Florida, a huge increase from the $10.5 million the year before.

"If the state increases its tourism spending, private businesses do as well and private investment is great for the state of Florida," said TaxWatch chief economist Jerry Parrish.

Visit Florida, public-private agency, is required to have a one-to-one match in private funding. Over the past seven years it averaged $2.08 in private money for every public dollar.

Parrish said aside from being a boon in communities statewide, more visitors puts money into the state coffers for paying off state debt, lessens the tax burden on state residents, makes tax-free holidays possible and contributes to infrastructure funding.

The increase in visitors is part of a three-year trend of more travelers, both international and domestic, coming to the state.

The goal is to draw 100 million annual visitors to the state by 2015

"There's no question the state of Florida and the tourism industry in the state of Florida has a tremendous amount of momentum," said Visit Florida President and CEO Will Seccombe. "That points to a long-term run of a great success in tourism."

Data shows in the first six months of 2014, hotel room rentals increased 10 percent.

In 2013, 94.3 million visitors came to the state. That number has been rising from 80.8 million in 2009, a record low.

Seccombe said the increasing trends have been statewide.

"I think as you look along the state you're seeing record visitation, record bed tax collections throughout," he said.

Visit Florida is still identifying areas of the state that have lull periods throughout the year to bolster traffic to those areas.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data totals the average annual employment and total annual wages for each of the state's 67 counties. In 2013, the leisure and hospitality category of private-sector jobs pushed more than 15,000 in Leon County with a total annual salary of more than $223 million. Franklin County jobs totaled 732 with annual wages topping $14.4 million and 535 jobs in Wakulla County produced $6.89 million in annual wages countywide.

The largest leisure hospitality workforce is in Miami-Dade with more than 124,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual salary.

Seccombe said the huge increase in state funding allowed Visit Florida to expand its promotional reach that was not possible in years past.

"We're able to broaden the footprint which in which we market. So, we've expanded into much more demographics outside of our traditional core markets," he said.

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